NFL backs GW flag football

Until now, GW intramural football players could only dream of playing a championship game on an NFL field. But now that GW is one of 32 pilot colleges participating in the new NFL College Flag Football Program, the players may have a chance to play at FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins.

The program, created by the National Football League and the National Intramural Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA), pairs each of the 32 collegiate flag football teams with an NFL sponsor. All GW teams that complete the season with a record of .500 or better will participate in a tournament. Negotiations are taking place to hold the championship game at FedEx Field.

NFL representatives will also conduct a series of activities and giveaways on the participating college campuses and promote the colleges’ Web sites with links off the NFL Web site.

Students are not the only beneficiaries of the deal. Each of the 32 participating colleges is located close to its sponsoring NFL team. Students will be encouraged to buy promotional products and attend home games. The NFL will also market their official sponsors’ products through the league, said Jon Broska, assistant director of intramural sports and sports clubs at GW.

“It’s a win-win situation for both of us,” he said. “It will allow them to tap into a different market that they may not have gotten into before.”

The Redskins’ home in Landover Md., is actually closer to the University of Maryland than Foggy Bottom, but “we got lucky,” said Aubre Jones, GW’s director of Recreational Sports and Fitness Services.

He said the NFL sent out information packets to GW and many other universities across the country. GW replied with a proposal application and was immediately signed on. Maryland will be sponsored by the Baltimore Ravens.

Other colleges picked for the pilot include the universities of Alabama as well as Arizona and North Carolina, Cornell, Vanderbilt and Purdue universities.

Broska said program coordinators are looking to turn the project into a nationwide program in the future.

“It’s hard to say how successful the program is going to be,” he said. “It’s uncharted waters for everyone involved, but all programs think it’s going to turn into something special.”

Many preparations are still uncertain, including the exact date (possibly mid-November) of GW’s championship game. Both the undergraduate and graduate leagues will have their own separate tournaments. At least one GW championship game may be played at FedEx Field.

It is still uncertain whether each individual league championship game will be played at FedEx Field. Two participating colleges may also be chosen by the NFL to send a team to the Super Bowl to participate in a flag football exhibition game.

NIRSA rules and regulations still apply in all games and tackling is still prohibited.

“I don’t think it will make flag football any more serious,” Broska said. “It will be a lot more fun, because there’s extra incentive for teams to make the playoffs.”

Second-year graduate student Jason Topper, captain of JT’s All-Star Team, said the program gives students who do not have a football team a chance to play.

“It would be great to play on the FedEx Field, and teams will be more determined to win because the stakes are higher.”

GW will support 64 teams this season from three leagues; undergraduate, graduate and co-ed. Games will begin this Saturday on the field at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue.

“We’re just looking forward to getting our season started,” Broska said. “It’s time to get out and play football.”

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